Helping Big Cats at the Central Florida Animal Reserve

When devastating winds badly damaged facilities at the Central Florida Animal Reserve (CFAR) in the spring of 2013, President Thomas Blue and the volunteer staff at the big cat sanctuary found themselves dealing with a financial crisis. Home to over 40 big cats and several smaller wild animals, the sanctuary suffered extensive damage to the refrigeration system as well as to buildings and other essential framework facilities. Repair costs far exceeded their budget. That’s when Mark Pieloch stepped in.

Pieloch had recently moved his business, PSPC Inc., to Florida from Nebraska. His love of animals is reflected in his business, which makes palatable medications and supplements for companion animals. When Pieloch heard of the devastation at the Central Florida Animal Reserve and the critical needs of the sanctuary, he met with Blue and presented him with a $12,000 check to cover their immediate needs.

The Central Florida Animal Reserve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that began operations in 2007. Many of the sanctuary residents were once kept as pets. Some were rescued from a variety of unhealthy situations and still others came from government agencies. None of the cats was born in the wild. It is estimated that the large cat population, animals kept as pets or in other situations, rivals that of big cats in the wild. Cute tiger cubs grow into unmanageable carnivores and even exotic-pet owners with the best intentions are unable to handle them. Without the option of a sanctuary life, many are euthanized. CFAR provides these unfortunate animals a place to live their lives in a healthy environment. The sanctuary also provides quality food, water and enrichment activities to keep the animals engaged and happy.

CFAR is currently moving from Brevard to Osceola. The move will expand the facilities to better meet the needs of the animals. Larger facilities will give Blue and the volunteer staff improved resources to develop educational programs and increase public awareness about the needs of these great cats. The eventual plan is to build a $1 million dollar compound for the tigers, lions, cougars and leopards, offer guided tours and add an educational visitor center.

Educating the public is a huge part of CFAR’s mission. One of the resident cats at CFAR is Kukla. A female Western cougar, Kukla brings attention to one of Florida’s own endangered species, the Florida panther. According to biologists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, only 100 to 160 yearlings and adults remain in Florida. If this trend continues, the Florida panther will soon no longer exist in the wild. Other large cats are endangered as well. Tigers, in particular, exist in very low numbers in the wild. The risk of extinction is great. The more people learn about the grace, beauty and wonder of these exotic creatures, the more motivated they are to help them.

When Mark Pieloch stepped in to help CFAR, he made it possible for the sanctuary to repair the damage and quickly get back to its important work of saving big cats and educating the public.